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Kiwis snatch victory to level America's Cup

Team New Zealand (left) powered to victory thanks to a stunning third leg Keystone

Emirates Team New Zealand came from behind to snatch a 28-second win over Switzerland's Alinghi to level the score at 1-1 in the best-of-nine America's Cup series.

This content was published on June 24, 2007 - 17:06

Alinghi lost the starboard advantage after the NZL-92 yacht crossed in front of it to start but Team New Zealand's early lead was short-lived as Alinghi pushed out in front after tacking to port halfway up the first leg.

The Swiss defender gained a lead of more than two boat-lengths before making the first cross of the NZL-92 yacht for a 19-second lead around the first marker.

Alinghi's lead was cut to 13 seconds around the second mark before the Kiwis gained on the left side of the course up the third leg, pushing ahead of Alinghi and around the final marker with the advantage before covering the Swiss yacht down the final lap.

"It was a complicated race and we made a mistake on the second upwind leg. We tacked too early; we should have remained high above them," said Alinghi crew member Francesco Rapetti.

"Any time we lose, it's a big loss," Alinghi skipper Brad Butterworth said. "On the first beat we looked pretty powerful... and on the second beat they just sort of rolled into us really."

The two teams faced fluctuating winds but flatter seas than in Saturday's race. Big swings in the direction of the easterly 10-knot sea breeze tested tacticians on both boats, making the choice of the side of the race even more critical than in the first race.

"Upwind and downwind there is not a lot in it, sometimes you make a big gain. It's all about shift and pressure and who makes the best job of using it," said New Zealand crew member Tony Rae.

First race

After the excitement of the first race, locals and visiting fans from New Zealand and Switzerland awoke to clear blue skies after a night of traditional Spanish revelling on the beaches of the Valencian port.

Both teams put Alinghi's first victory down to a crucial wind shift early in the contest, with the Swiss team taking the left-hand side of the course off the Mediterranean port of Valencia and getting a favourable lift.

Once they had clear water in the first race, Alinghi capitalised on the advantage and went on to win by 35 seconds, showing superior speed on the downwind legs.

In 2003, the team from landlocked Switzerland shocked sailing powerhouse New Zealand by defeating the Kiwis 5-0 at home to take the cup to Europe for this first time in more than 150 years. Sunday's win means the America's Cup will not be a sweep for the first time since 1992, four editions past.

"I've lost a lot of races since then... it's only every four years, I'll get over it," said Butterworth who lost for the first time in 17 America's Cup races.

The third-flight of the best-of-nine series is scheduled for Tuesday.

swissinfo with agencies

The Cup

The inaugural race was held off the Isle of Wight in 1851. America dominated the race right up until 1983 when Australia won the trophy.

In 1995 New Zealand became only the third country to win the competition, successfully defending their title in 2000.

The Swiss syndicate Alinghi sailed to victory against Black Magic in 2003 and became the first European team to win the Auld Mug.

The 2007 America's Cup off the coast of Spain is scheduled to take place from June 23 to July 7 at the latest.

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Some background

Yachts: a construction class is based around a formula or set of restrictions that the boat's measurements must fit to be accepted. The America's Cup is the most famous competition involving construction class boats.

Racing: harbour or buoy races are conducted in protected waters, and are quite short, usually taking anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours. The most famous such event is the America's Cup.

This kind of race is most commonly run over one or more laps of a triangular course marked by a number of buoys.

In the America's Cup, the course is specifically set out to test the balance between boat speed and match racing ability in a team. The course is up to 18.55 nautical miles (34.35 kilometres) in length and consists of up to three laps of a right-handed windward-leeward course between a windward (upwind) mark at the top of the course and a leeward (downwind) gate near the bottom of the course. The start and finish line are the same.

Speed: one (international) knot is exactly equal to 1.852 kilometres per hour.

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